The Wheatsheaf has a long standing relationship with many famous authors and literary icons.

 

The below are extracts taken from:  

 

The Confessions of Anthony Burgess, Dylan Thomas: In the Mercy of his Means, George Tremlett. Dylan Thomes, Paul Ferris. Orwell’s London, John Thompson.

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Dylan Thomes

 

Thomas may still have been a virgin when he and Caitlin met at The Wheatsheaf on 12 April [936, for his relationship with Pamela Hansford Johnson continued well into 1935. They were still corresponding occasionally the following year, and their friendship remained wholly platonic. There is nothing to suggest that Thomas was ever in Love with anyone else, although he was still busily working on the image of himself as romantic hero. The suggestion that he may have caught venereal disease from a girl that he met at the International Surrealistic Exhibition comes later - the Exhibition was staged in July 1936 - and there is no real proof that he did,"

He may have been bluffing again. At the time that he met Caitlin, Thomas was staying with Emily Holmes Coleman and her daughter. They had arranged to meet that night at The Wheatsheaf. When Emily arrived she found Dylan sitting on a stool with Caitlin's head in his lap, him telling her how much he loved her, how beautiful she was, and that he was determined to marry her; they had only met an hour or so earlier, or maybe minutes, for neither had much sense of time.'  

 

Caitlin was fiery, strong and unpredictable, almost as strong as he was, although she could pick him up in her arms, listen For hours to his 'endless jabber', and take him straight to bed, A trained dancer who had roughed it in Paris and worked in London theatres, she was lithe and womanly, with few inhibitions. Her father had abandoned the family home, a friend of her parents, Augustus John, had raped her, and she believed, tall men are bastards'. Words had always been a powerful force in her father's life -Francis Macnamara was an Irish poet, part of the Gate Theatre crowd in Dublin, and a loud, booming declaimer - and now here she was in this London pub with a poet, obsessed by language, convinced of his genius, showering her with tenderness as though they had been living together for years.

 

Who tells the first royal story also records that she personally was in the bar of the Wheatsheaf one night when Thomas, standing at the counter with a crowd of people, opened his trousers and offered his penis to a girl, who screamed. Did she actually see it? No, but she knew what was happening. Arguably it matters little whether he did it or not. But it would be useful to know, with the Thomas Legend, where fantasy (both his and others') ends, the better to understand what reality meant to. 

 

A few years before 'Thomas died, Glyn Jones, who saw him only rarely by now. went to Laugharne to discuss a B.B.C. radio programme (which was never made) in a series on 'How I Write'. From the work-shed above the Boat House they could see the farmhouse across the estuary where Jones's grandfather was born. Ah, said Thomas, and that farm next to it is Pentowin, where my grandfather was born. It was not, as Jones heard later from old Mrs Thomas; the only family connection wish Pentowin was that Annie and Jim had farmed it before they went to Fernhill. Jones saw the remark as 'another of those charming and rather childlike attempts of his at saying what would please and be of interest, and create a bond be-tween himself and his listener'. In any case, Thomas may have thought it was true. The borderline between fast and fiction may have been blurred inside his head as well as outside it.

 

By the end of the whiter of 1936, Thomas's London friends thought it was time they sent him off, yet again, for a holiday in the country. Thomas (according to °swell Blakeston) was showing signs of stress; he insisted that a bus conductor said to him. 'It's a two penny fare, but for you, Rat, it's sixpence.' Blakeston introduced him to an unshockable woman called Wyn Henderson over dinner in a Soho restaurant, an occasion masterminded by Norman Cameron, who knew that Mrs Henderson had a cottage in Cornwall, near Land's End. 

Mrs Henderson was the mother of Nigel Henderson; she had had three children before she was twenty-one. She was at various times a writer, a typographer and a publisher, and she knew all about the vagaries and bad habits of artists. Early in March.

 

By the end of the whiter of 1936, Thomas's London friends thought it was time they sent him off, yet again, for a holiday in the country. Thomas (according to °swell Blakeston) was showing signs of stress; he insisted that a bus conductor said to him. 'It's a two penny fare, but for you, Rat, it's sixpence.' Blakeston introduced him to an unshockable woman called Wyn Henderson over dinner in a Soho restaurant, an occasion masterminded by Norman Cameron, who knew that Mrs Henderson had a cottage in Cornwall, near Land's End. Mrs Henderson was the mother of Nigel Henderson; she had had three children before she was twenty-one. She was at various times a writer, a typographer and a publisher, and she knew all about the vagaries and bad habits of artists. Early in March.

 

Cairfin 151 come ever gave her such prolonged ecstasy'. She had a striking body, and often sat for Augustus John. When she was seven-teen or eighteen she went to London and found work as a chorus-girl at the Palladium; according to Mrs Devas the hours and discipline didn't appeal to her. She had the chance to go abroad when a talent-scout from Paris was in London. looking for showgirls. An offer of some kind was made to Caitlin. contingent on her guardian's permission because she was under twenty-one. Mrs Macnamarra refused to give it, and Caitlin's career went no further. in a newspaper article that she wrote. or signed, in 1956, she said that when she met Dylan she was 'an ambitious Irish chorus-girl". In fact, their meeting came several years after her Palladium appearances. But a dancer was how she liked to regard herself, Eventually she came to feel cheated of a career.

 

Between the Palladium and Dylan Thomas there are several years. probably two or three, to account for. For a while she danced her way through private salons in the company of an older woman, Vera Gribben. who taught and practised the 'eurhythmic' method, where bodily movements are supposed to express emotions aroused by the accompanying music. They danced for small audiences in Dublin and Paris, striking drama-tic postures to Bach and Mozart. They danced in the open-air at Fryern Court, at night, under the trees; muffled laughter came unkindly out of the dark from spectators who didn't care for eurhythmics.

 

Another venue was the Group Theatre, founded in London its 1932, where Caitlin was briefly a member. When she and Mrs Gribben danced there, T. S. Eliot was in the audience; he was seen staring at his shoes.

 

Little else is known of her whereabouts, except that she la said to have lived in Paris, until the first half of 1936, when she and Augustus John appear in a London pub, probably the Wheatsheaf, and John introduces her to Dylan Thomas. Ac-cording to FitzGibbon, this was in the spring, shortly before Thomas made his therapeutic trip to Cornwall. In Caitlin's account, she was wearing a 'very beautiful flowery dress' that she had borrowed from one of her sisters. Dylan was 'dishevelled.

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JOHN THOMAS

 

Nominal centre of Fitzrovia, so another pub nearby, the Wheatsheaf, gained the custom of the intelligentsia. Fitzgibbon has it that it was Orwell himself, in 1934, who led the migration from the noisy and crowded house to the Wheatsheaf. It would have been in character: he was always in search of an unspoiled working-class pub in which to make highbrow conversation.

Another venue was the Group Theatre, founded in London its 1932, where Caitlin was briefly a member. When she and Mrs Gribben danced there, T. S. Eliot was in the audience; he was seen staring at his shoes.

 

Little else is known of her whereabouts, except that she la said to have lived in Paris, until the first half of 1936, when she and Augustus John appear in a London pub, probably the Wheatsheaf, and John introduces her to Dylan Thomas. Ac-cording to FitzGibbon, this was in the spring, shortly before Thomas made his therapeutic trip to Cornwall. In Caitlin's account, she was wearing a 'very beautiful flowery dress' that she had borrowed from one of her sisters. Dylan was 'dishevelled.

 

Nominal centre of Fitzrovia, so another pub nearby, the Wheatsheaf, gained the custom of the intelligentsia. Fitzgibbon has it that it was Orwell himself, in 1934, who led the migration from the noisy and crowded house to the Wheatsheaf. It would have been in character: he was always in search of an unspoiled working-class pub in which to make highbrow conversation. In fact there was a nightly migration from the Wheatsheaf to another pub just across the street, the Marquis of Granby. This was not a first choice for beer and literary talk, since it was run by an ex-police m an and known for its violence; but there was a special reason for going there. The Wheatsheaf and the Fitzroy were in Holborn and licensed only until ten-thirty p.m; the Marquis however, just a few yards further east, was in Marylebone and remained open till eleven. So every night there was a short mass-movement from borough to borough, to join the ex-policeman and his bookmaker friends. But most of Orwell's eating out and drinking seems, modestly, to have been at lunchtime. In the evenings he was generally in his flat, guarded from visitors by his wife, hammering at his typewriter. Some of his Fitzrovian lunches have become famous. After the publication of Animal Farm he took Fredric Warburg to a place in Percy Street: The Wheatsheaf, Rathbone Place, WI. The Wheatsheaf has retained its original wood and glass, but lost the denim-title tartans that accompanied the Younger's Scotch Ale. The Ale is weft remembered by many of fill's generation. He himself had fired ideas about what his friends should drink in a pub. Lettice Cooper recalls that 'whenever I asked for lager or light ale I always-got the darkest kind of beer if George was ordering. 

I protested and Eileen said "It's no use, once you are established as a friend of his you become the kind of person who wouldn't drink lager or light ale and nothing will shake.

 

York, past the passage known as Jekyll and Hyde Alley, had as landlord Major Alf Klein, an irritable but sometimes generous man whose whisky intake was formidable and, by the late fifties, had done for him. I saw him give the pub piano to Cyril Clarke, a drunken musicologist: 'Go on, take the bloody thing away.' It was in the Duke of -York that I had evidence of Lynne's courage, a quality she never lost except in the dentist's surgery. A razor gang, Pirelli's mob, came in and nearly cleared the bar. Major Klein retreated in good order. The mob leader, cherubically fair and probably of Venetian origin, ordered pints of bitter from the cowed bald barman with no intention of paying. The beer he poured on the floor before throwing the glasses at the walls or grinningly threatening such customers as were left with the jagged butts. Lynne said: 'What a pity to waste good beer.' The little mobster, with his gorillas behind him, leered: 'You want to drink it then?' He ordered the drawing of pint after pint. These were for Lynne. I tried to help. 'You keep out of it, soldier.' She downed three pints without a golden hair's turning. 'You're a good kid, you are. If you're ever in trouble with those bastards of O'Flaherty's or the Maltese mob you just call on Pirelli.' Then he threw insolent fivers on to the counter and led his thugs out. Lynne's courage owed something to innocence. She could not take the Pirelli gang seriously: it was just something out of Brigton Rock. No mobsters entered the Wheatsheaf: there was no room, To get to the gentlemen's toilet one had to fight through a highly literary mob and climb stairs thronged with small poets and their girl friends. From the toilet I could always hear Lynne's crisp consonants ringing clearly. She had a remarkably well-placed voice: it was a great asset with the loud Special Branch as it had beets with bullying trade union secretaries. She rarely had to raise it. She would be arguing with Sister Ann the respectable prostitute, or Nina Hammett the painter, or Dylan Thomas or John Heath-Stubbs, John Large, John Singer, Noel Sircar, other writers, some remembered, most forgotten. The Wheatsheaf saloon bar was 2 hall of transient fame. Much was expected of John Singer. the Commercial Road poet who had published a volume called The Fury of the Living, from which I recall only an epigram on C. E. toad, the giggling bearded philosopher of the BBC Brains Trust:

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ANTHONY BURGESS

 

The Wheatsheaf was the most popular of the pubs on the circuit. One came from Oxford Street to Rathbone Place and first met the Black Horse, too funereal to be convivial, and then the Bricklayers Arms, set back on Gresse Street, quiet, small and a good pace for assignations.

It was known as the Burglars or the Burglars Rest, because of a notorious break-in for the drinking up of the stock and a sloshed sleep after. The Marquess of Granby, at the corner of Rathbone Place, was run by homosexuals. Paul, the bearded homosexual pianist, wore little gold earrings and said: 'My dear, this boogie-woogie makes me wet my knickers. I prefer something more ran,' meaning 'You are my Heart's Delight'. The Duke of York, past the passage known as Jekyll and Hyde Alley, had as landlord Major Alf Klein, an irritable but sometimes generous man whose whisky intake was formidable and, by the late fifties, had done for him. I saw him give the pub piano to Cyril Clarke, a drunken musicologist: 'Go on, take the bloody thing away.'

 

It was in the Duke of -York that I had evidence of Lynne's courage, a quality she never lost except in the dentist's surgery. A razor gang, Pirelli's mob, came in and nearly cleared the bar. Major Klein retreated in good order. The mob leader, cherubically fair and probably of Venetian origin, ordered pints of bitter from the cowed bald barman with no intention of paying. The beer he poured on the floor before throwing the glasses at the walls or grinningly threatening such customers as were left with the jagged butts. Lynne said: 'What a pity to waste good beer.' The little mobster, with his gorillas behind him, leered: 'You want to drink it then?' He ordered the drawing of pint after pint. 

These were for Lynne. I tried to help. 'You keep out of it, soldier.' She downed three pints without a golden hair's turning. 'You're a good kid, you are. If you're ever in trouble with those bastards of O'Flaherty's or the Maltese mob you just call on Pirelli.' Then he threw insolent fivers on to the counter and led his thugs out. Lynne's courage owed something to innocence. She could not take the Pirelli gang seriously: it was just something out of Brigton Rock.

 

No mobsters entered the Wheatsheaf: there was no room, To get to the gentlemen's toilet one had to fight through a highly literary mob and climb stairs thronged with small poets and their girl friends. From the toilet I could always hear Lynne's crisp consonants ringing clearly. She had a remarkably well-placed voice: it was a great asset with the loud Special Branch as it had beets with bullying trade union secretaries. She rarely had to raise it. She would be arguing with Sister Ann the respectable prostitute, or Nina Hammett the painter, or Dylan Thomas or John Heath-Stubbs, John Large, John Singer, Noel Sircar, other writers, some remembered, most forgotten. The Wheatsheaf saloon bar was 2 hall of transient fame. Much was expected of John Singer. the Commercial Road poet who had published a volume called The Fury of the Living, from which I recall only an epigram on C. E. toad, the giggling bearded philosopher of the BBC Brains Trust.

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